Agriculture: The soil and climatic conditions of the Jos Plateau favour the production of exotic crops like Irish potatoes, apples, grapes, wheat, barley and vegetables. The region produces about 200,000 tons of Irish potatoes annually. Union Trading Company (U.T.C) recently embarked on large scale production of wheat and barley in Mangu LGA. Already, the company's annual production of both crops is nearly 200,000 ton.
These crops are grown throughout the year: rain-fed during the wet season and irrigated during the dry season. Irrigation water is derived from two sources, dams and old mine ponds. The old mine ponds are a special attraction to Hausa migrant farmers from Kano and Katsina States who rent some of the
adjacent lands in the dry season to grow potatoes and vegetables. Well over 40,000 hectares of land have been under irrigation every dry season in the last few years, by multinational companies, government agencies and private individuals. Trade liberalization which allows unrestricted importation of grains, including wheat, is threatening irrigated wheat production in Plateau State and other parts of Nigeria. The plains of the southern part of Plateau State constitute a major food-producing region of Nigeria. Maize, sorghum, rice and yam are produced in abundance in Wase, Bassa, Pankshin, Shendam and Langtang LGAs.
Cattle Rearing and Dairying: Plateau State has an estimated cattle population of 1.07 million in the hands of the Fulani nomads. A little less than half of these cattle, graze permanently on the cool tsetse-fly free Jos Plateau, while the remainder spend the dry season on the rangelands of Benue plains and move up to the Plateau in the wet season.
The large concentration of cattle on the Jos Plateau encouraged the early establishment of a veterinary research centre and a dairy factory in Vom. The dairy factory was to make up for the short fall in imported dairy products during the Second World War. The Vom dairy factory proved so successful that another one was opened soon after at Kumbul in Pankshin LGA.
At the initial stage, these factories produced but- ter, cheese and clarified butter fat, using milk entirely purchased from the local Fulani nomads. The nerve centre of modern dairying on the Jos Plateau today is the Netherlands Government-assisted West African Milk Company (WAMCO) located at Vom. WAMCO is an integrated dairying enterprise which produces a wide range of milk products.
The rapid growth of cattle population on the Jos Plateau has resulted in over-grazing and very stiff competi- tion for land between sedentary farmers and nomadic Fulanis which is often expressed in violent clashes between the two groups. These and the grazing-induced soil erosion problems are being tackled through the establishment of game reserves in Wase and twelve other LGAs for settling the nomads in some form of mixed farming.
Fish Farming: Fish farming is gradually becoming a major economic activity in Plateau State. A modern hatchery with a capacity to produce two million fingerlings of tilapia, carp and mud fish for sale to farmers has been established, as well as pond fisheries consultancy service unit to stimulate private investment in fish farming and boost the industry.
Fish farming is being undertaken on a small scale in a few old mine ponds on the Jos Plateau and the popular Panyam Fish Farm. The hundreds of mine ponds which litter the Jos Plateau and the new dams are potential sources of fish production in targe commercial quantities. Plateau State has become a major exporter of food crops, especially vam, potatoes and dairy products to other parts of the country.
In addition, Plateau apples and grapes can be found in super- markets outside the state. The present output of agricultural products by local farmers and multina- tional companies in Plateau State points to one fact: with adequate investments, the state can substantially increase the domestic supply of food and animal protein in Nigeria.
The Plateau State Government, on its part, provides a range of incentives to farmers which include subsidised farm inputs and machinery, land preparation and guaranteed loans. Individuals and companies genuinely interested in agriculture can negotiate the acquisition of large tracts of land in Plateau State in line with the 1978 Land Use Act and will find the State Government a co-operative partner in agricultural development.
Minerals: Plateau State is endowed with rich deposits of a variety of industrial minerals of high quality. Tin (cassiterite) and columbite have been mined on the Jos Plateau since 1902. Although pro- duction has declined, due to a drastic fall in demand, this area was once the world's leading producer of tin with an annual output of 17,000 tons in the peak war period of 1941-45. Other minerals found in Plateau State in commercial quantities are barytes, kaolin, zircon, monazite, marble, lime stone, sphalerite, quartz, galena, glass sand, clay and gemstones.
Existing Industries: Existing industries in Plateau State fall into two categories cottage and factory industries. The cottage industries which are widely distributed throughout the State include black smithing for the making of simple tools, pottery, mat making and leather works. Factory indus- tries are mostly concentrated in Jos, which is one of the leading industrial centres in northern Nigeria.
There are over sixty factory/industrial establishments in Jos. They range in size, from small to very large, and depend entirely on imported machinery and a combination of local and imported raw materials for their production. These industries engage in various forms of manufacturing which include food processing, production of packaging materials, cosmetics, furniture, confectioneries, livestock feeds, detergent, beer, soft drinks, pharmaceuticals, building materials, steel and metal sheets, book publishing, tin smelting and lead materials.
The Jos Steel Rolling Mills, NASCO, Jos Interna- tional Breweries and Highland Bottling Company are examples of modern large scale manufacturing industries in Jos. Some of these industries have closed down, while others are operating at well below their installed capacities, as a result of the high cost of imported raw materials and machinery which followed in the wake of the structural adjust- ment programme introduced in 1986. It is hoped that the new democratic political dispensation in the country under the leadership of President Otusegun Obasanjo would breathe a new lease of life into these moribund industries.
Local Sourcing of Raw Materials: Many industries have started to take advantage of the abundant raw materials in Plateau State. These include mining-related industries such as Makeri Smelting Company, Kaolin industry in Barakin Ladi, Gold and Base, Exiands and Kaduna Prospectus. Most of the industries in Plateau State are agro- based types utilising local agricultural materials. A few well known agro-based industries in the state are NASCO Foods, NASCO Packs, Jos International Breweries, Northern Nigeria Fibre Products and Grand Cereal and Oil Mills Ltd.